John at Balloon Juice, discussing identity politics, writes:
Maybe this incident will help people (in particular my friends on the left, but not exclusively) recognize why this brand of politics will lead to nothing but rancor and should end now.
Yes, because what good has identity politics done so far? I mean, aside from ending Jim Crow, bringing voting rights to minorities and to women, creating a nationwide network of rape crisis and battered women’s resources, removing laws against sodomy, vastly increasing Deaf rights, changing homosexuality from a sickness to an orientation, making much of society more accessible to the disabled, wage equality laws, giving married women the right to own property, and a thousand other changes that have helped the disabled, the non-white, the queer and the female, when has identity politics ever done anyone any good?
John’s right – putting every social improvement this country has made in the last century aside, identity politics leads to nothing but rancor.
Pretty clearly there is a difference between using single issues or groups of people suffering similar types of discrimination as an organizing principle to address grievances and the incidents Jeff and I are discussing. What Jeff and I reject are the attempts to use what self-styled adherents to this modern brand of identity politics are attempting to impose, a system in which those within the identity group are to be the sole arbiter of that what is best for all members of the group (regardless of their own decisions) in question and the only ones allowed to speak about issues relating to the group (included within this is the belief that what is best for the group is the notion that individual autonomy is forbidden, and that all blacks must think alike or they are not really black, all gays must be one way or they are not really gay, etc.). This is clearly different from the original notion of identity politics, in which the focus was the “demand for recognition on the basis of the very grounds on which recognition has previously been denied: it is qua women, qua blacks, qua lesbians that groups demand recognition.”
Those who choose to pretend that the broad-based coalition that helped to enact Civil Rights legislation (and other similar acts) is the same exact thing as a group of people who say that whites are forbidden to comment when a black man dresses up another black man in ‘sambo’ outfits are free to hold their opinions, but I don’t have to take them seriously.